Environment Canada classifies severe winter storms as a blizzard when the following weather conditions last more than 4 hours:
- snow or blowing snow with winds of 40 km/hr or more
- snow or blowing snow reducing visibility to less than 1 km
- windchill of -25 C or colder
Since severe winter weather can hit suddenly, it’s important to prepare in advance.
Prepare for a blizzard or severe winter storm
- Winterize your home and vehicle before the cold weather arrives.
- Prepare a survival kit for your home.
- Prepare an emergency car kit for your vehicle.
- Get into the habit of dressing appropriately for the weather as well as checking forecasts and road conditions before going outside.
- If travelling on the road in winter:
- keep your vehicle in good condition and drive with snow tires or chains
- keep your gas tank full
- inform someone of your route and expected time of arrival
- travel during daylight hours
- listen to the radio for weather updates
Stay safe during a blizzard or severe winter storm
If you are at home:
- Stay there and wait out the storm indoors.
- DO NOT travel outside unless it is urgent.
- Turn on your radio or television to listen for weather updates.
- Have batteries and flashlights ready in case of a power failure.
- Ensure your children and pets remain inside.
- Watch and respond to potential fire hazards from overheated furnaces, heaters, fireplaces or stoves.
If you are at work or in a public building:
- Stay calm and follow any instructions given to you.
- Follow these tips if you are asked to Shelter in Place.
If you are outside:
- Get indoors as soon as possible. Whiteout conditions can disorient you; high windchills may result in frostbite or hypothermia.
If you are driving:
- Turn back or seek refuge if conditions deteriorate.
- If you're stranded in your vehicle during a blizzard:
- Raise the hood of your vehicle as a distress signal.
- Use supplies in your car kit to keep warm and dry. Eat high-energy foods.
- Stay in your vehicle and wait for emergency personnel to arrive.
- Turn emergency flashers on.
- If possible, run your vehicle for a few minutes every hour to keep the interior warm. Check the exhaust pipe frequently and clear snow away to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- If you can’t run your vehicle, light a candle to keep warm.
- Open a window slightly on the sheltered side (away from the wind) for ventilation.
- Stimulate circulation by moving your arms, hands, and feet.
- Don’t fall asleep.
After a blizzard
- Listen to local radio and television stations for updates and instructions.
- Use caution as you shovel snow after the storm, as it is extremely hard work and can trigger heart attacks in some people.
- Only travel if absolutely necessary; roads may be in poor condition, icy, or blocked with snow drifts.
- Only use the telephone if necessary. Emergency crews may need all available lines.